Zaglossus hacketti - extinct giant echidna

(Zaglossus) great tongue (hacketti) Sir John Winthrop Hackett - past president of the board of trustees of the Western Australian Museum.

Zaglossus hacketti was unknown to science until it was first identified from the Mammoth Cave fossil deposit in 1909. This giant extinct echidna weighed about 30 kg and stood around one metre tall (about the size of a sheep) making it the largest monotreme (egg laying mammal) to have ever lived.

Just like today's echidnas, Zaglossus were covered in spines for protection. Zaglossus had very long back legs enabling the animal to stand, freeing its arms so that it could use its very long claws for digging out termite nests. It had a much longer, downward curving snout than the common echidna and it possibly also ate grubs, beetles, worms and other invertebrates.

Zaglossus's sticky tongue would have been about 54cm long - the average human tongue is approximately 7cm. A sheep-sized echidna with a ½ meter long tongue would have been an impressive sight.

zaglossus hacketti